Bucks Hosts Voter Rights Panel



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Nicholas Cipriano, staff writer

Martin Luther King fought for voting rights during his lifetime. That fight continues to this day.

Pennsylvania state senator Steve Santarsiero and other experts in government and history attended a one-hour zoom panel discussion about voting rights hosted by Bucks Kevin Antoine, J.D., the college’s Associate Vice President of Community and Government Affairs and Chief DEI Officer on January 27th as a celebration of Martin Luther King Day. 

After viewing the short documentary “Voting Rights: Here We Go Again,” the panel members shared their insights and expertise related to voter rights. 

William Pezza, Bucks Professor discussed a hypothetical pie chart. He cut the pie chart in half again and again to demonstrate the very small percentage of people who could vote back in 1788. 

Robert Harvie, Chair of Bucks County Commissioners & Board of Election pointed out that mail-in ballots have been around for years. 

 Santarsiero talked about how voter suppression does not happen in a vacuum. It spreads out and is not contained to a finite space. He continued talking about the Reconstruction after the Civil War and how during this time African Americans could vote. This led to more African Americans being elected to government positions. Then, Jim Crow laws occurred and restricted their rights again. 

Omar Sabir, City Commissioner for the County of Philadelphia pointed out that Martin Luther King said we need to take advantage of the freedoms that we have. Sabir added that voter suppression now is different from voter suppression back in the 1960s, the laws are restrictive, but no one is being killed or having fire hoses turned on them. 

Antoine reminisced about the first time his father took him to vote. It was during a mayoral election. He said that two of the five members of the city council wanted his dad to be on the school board while two did not. The fifth member never showed up, so the mayor made the deciding vote, voting no. Antoine says that one of his old neighbors told him that when the voting rights act was passed, he thought that would be the remedy. 

This back-and-forth discussion of voter rights has helped us to progress and give to all of our country a voice in who should be in charge.